Genji Shoguns (源氏将軍)

Genji Shoguns (Warrior Generals) were the Minamoto clan members given the responsibility of seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"). In particular, it is said he was a Shogun (general) who hailed from the Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan).

Who were the Genji Shoguns?

In a narrow sense, the Genji Shoguns are identified as three generations of Shoguns that commenced with MINAMOTO no Yoritomo (who set up the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun)), MINAMOTO no Yoriie and MINAMOTO no Sanetomo. In a broader sense, seii taishogun who preceded Yoritomo can be included: MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka and the founder of the Muromachi bakufu of the same Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan). Also included is Takauji ASHIKAGA, the patriarch of the Ashikaga Shogun family line. Also supposedly laying claim to the Minamoto clan line is the family of Tokugawa Shoguns who established the Edo bakufu.

At the layman's level, a myth about Genji Shogun that being Minamoto clan was required to assume the position of seii taishogun. However, initially no such requirement existed. Of course, there are those amongst the Ashikaga and Tokugawa shogun families and so on that took to using the Minamoto clan as part of their name and, their relatives' monopolized aspects of government service on a hereditary basis. Looking back further still to the Heian period, in the timeframe following OTOMO no Otomaro and SAKANOUE no Tamuramaro's duties as seii taishogun, taking on the role of seii taishogun was not limited to the Minamoto clan. By contrast, until Yoritomo cousin MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka assumed the mantle of seii taishogun, the Minamoto clan had no claim at all to the title of seii taishogun. This was because in the first instance, the role was assumed by Chinju-fu (Pacification and Defense Headquarters) and Chinju-fu shogun (Commander-in-Chief of the Defense of the North) both located in Mutsu Province. From around the middle of the Heian period, role of seii taishogun was held as a matter of course by this individual. Furthermore, the appointment of Yoshinaka as the initial Seiwa-Genji's seii taishogun was unprecedented as Yoshinaka was initially overlooked for the role. It goes without saying therefore, key samurai families with pedigree are not limited to the Minamoto clan. Whichever historical period is reviewed, it is not inevitable that to be shogun one had to be a Minamoto clan.

What is certain is, the Seiwa-Genji was representative of the Minamoto samurai family. From a standpoint of amalgamating the samurai forces in the eastern provinces, they were proud of their efforts and having been the family to overwhelm other samurai families. Members of the Seiwa-Genji and in particular Yoritomo's Kawachi-Genji clan were held in high regard for their bravery (along with Minamoto no Yoshiie). As a leading samurai military family, the leaders of the Minamoto clan and its line of eldest sons was the family lineage that managed to unify and amalgamate the forces of the samurai of the eastern provinces.

For a brief period of time, the Minamoto clan were commanded by imperial order to pursue the enemy Taira family (who had seized real power from the imperial court) and subsequently ordered to hunt down and kill the Taira family. Receiving these commands, the Minamoto clan mobilized its army again but, samurai military government powers were established when the Minamoto clan would not take orders from the imperial court ensconced in the eastern provinces. It is thought this outcome is proof positive that the social standing of the Minamoto clan as the supreme military family presence was forged.

That said, the first Japan-wide military rule by a military family was in fact set up by Yoritomo with the Kamakura bakufu following the assassination of Sanetomo and after that even though it could be said that Yoritomo was a distant relative (great grandchild), he was invited to establish a system of shogun regents by FUJIWARA no Yoritsune; a fourth generation oldest son lineage from the Fujiwara family line of regents. Subsequently, it appears he was welcomed as a miyashogun (shogun from the Imperial Court) from the Imperial families, so the precedent that one could not become a shogun unless of the Minamoto clan stock was overturned at the behest of the Kamakura bakufu itself. However, Yoritomo was treated as an outsider (even though he came from the same family in the Seiwa-Genji) and, was ruined due to doubts about his allegiances. Of course, there are absolutely no doubts that it was commonly thought that Minamoto clan members should be shoguns as it was they who had marshaled the collective power of Japan's samurai.

At the time Sanetomo was serving as Shogun, Tomomasa HIRAGA (who was a Minamoto clan) was providing backing for the removal of Sanetomo and replacement with Tokimasa HOJO.

Upon his return to Kamakura, there were also discussions about him changing his name to Minamoto clan.
At the time of the Shimotsuki Sodo (political change of Kamakura bakufu), TAIRA no Yoritsuna's opponent Yasumori ADACHI defamed Regent Sadatoki HOJO by claiming 'there is a plot in essence that Yasumori's child Munekage ADACHI is Fujiwara clan therefore unless he changes his name to Minamoto clan he can not become Shogun.'

Also, presiding as the seventh Shogun, Imperial Prince Koreyasu was the first prince to be made Shogun without an imperial edict however, subsequently in actuality he became a member of the royal family that was subject to the state and took the Minamoto clan of Koreyasu MINAMOTO. It has been said that Koreyasu (prince of the sixth Shogun Imperial Prince Munetaka, who himself was Imperial Prince of Emperor Gosaga) had to be demoted from nobility to subject at the behest of the bakufu and, not at the wish of the Imperial family side.

This was because the view that the leader of the Bakufu had to be a Minamoto (Genji) Shogun was deeply rooted amongst lower ranked vassals at that time. However, at the time the real power of the bakufu was held in the hands of the Shogun's Regents, the Hojo clan. The Shogun's position to be precise was no more than as a puppet or symbolic figurehead. From the Hojo clan's viewpoint, they wished to offset a situation where cohesive unifying power were held by the Minamoto clan. In fact, besides Imperial Prince Koreyasu received the title of Imperial Prince by Imperial Order from status of a subject, he was also removed from being shogun. Koreyasu's male cousin Imperial Prince Hisaaki (Imperial Prince of Emperor Gofukakusa) was a very young child when he assumed the position of shogun. Furthermore, there was no demotion from nobility to subject and, Imperial Prince Morikuni, who also received backing to become a shogun as a miyashogun.

Process of Revival of the Genji Shoguns and Creation of Genji Shogun Legends
In 1333 the Kamakura bakufu collapsed and Emperor Godaigo moved towards setting up a new Kenmu Administration amongst a escalating disturbances across Japan. With this in mind as well, the Seiwa-Genji also looked towards a Genji Shogun of the ilk of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo. Takauji ASHIKAGA who also shared Kawachi-Genji origins backed the Northern Dynasty and, served as seii taishogun at the opening of the Muromachi bakufu that went on to see a revival in the Genji Shoguns for around the next 120 years. According to the epic war tale "Taiheiki" (the Record of the Great Peace), in 1335 when under the direct rule of Emperor Godaigo, spouting rebellion Tokiyuki HOJO (orphan of Takatoki HOJO who had been destroyed along with the Kamakura bakufu) marched on Kamakura. Whereupon, Takauji ASHIKAGA stated more or less as follows.
Initially for generations seii taishogun was a fellow Genpei (Minamoto clan and Taira clan) clansman but that status has no bearing.'
This matter at hand in places has deep significance on the profound wishes of Imperial Court and, the families.'
In other words, in relation to the countless examples of members of the Minamoto and Taira clans serving as seii taishogun, and besides being the recipient of Shogun proclamations, he wished to report to the Emperor that the Hojo clan had been subjugated. Dismissing these wishes, Takauji ASHIKAGA took it upon himself to raise an army to suppress the Hojo clan. Without notifying the Imperial Court, in order to make plans to subjugate samurai families in various provinces, it was made to look as if the subjugation drive emanated from the Imperial court. With fresh backing from the Northern Dynasty and serving as seii taishogun, he established Muromachi bakufu and revived the Genji Shogun. The house of Ashikaga Shogun families was the same as what was previously the house of Genji Shoguns.
Monopolization of the role of Shogun continued and emphasis on the legitimacy of their control possible misunderstandings can be seen such as 'the chief of military government should be Minamoto clan ' or 'to be shogun one had to be Minamoto clan.'
However, the Muromachi bakufu was substantially destroyed during the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States). Nobunaga ODA calling himself a Taira, distinguished himself as the new pre-eminent leader at a that time, is said to have been assumed by the Imperial Court whatever official role he wished: Seii taishogun, Daijo-daijin (Grand minister of state) or Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor) ('sanshoku suinin mondai' (the question of the three alternative positions)). It therefore can not be justified to say only Minamoto clan were allowed to be Shogun as there were limitations to a Genji Shogun obtaining any role they happened to desire. However, Nobunaga's successor, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI managed to unify the whole country and also sought the role of Shogun. It is said that Hideyoshi took it upon himself to dismiss requests from Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA, 15th generation of Shogun in the Muromachi bakufu, to adopt Hideyoshi as his child. In addition, subsequently Ieyasu TOKUGAWA who had assumed the Fujiwara clan was as a Minamoto clan appointed as seii taishogun and, notwithstanding in each case the three founders of the bakufu regimes in Japan's history had come from Minamoto clan stock, the Minamoto clan legend that only a Minamoto clan could be shogun and, Minamoto clan belief came into existence.